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Community Events Will Celebrate Africa, the African Diaspora

Africana events

The University of Notre Dame’s Department of Africana Studies and Office of Community Relations are working together to present a yearlong community celebration of Africa and the African diaspora. The series of programs, lectures and events, called “The Africana World,” is a collaboration between local higher education institutes and community organizations.

Jackie Rucker, associate director of community relations for Notre Dame, said that the focus on the series this year came from a desire to commemorate the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s October 1963 visit to campus. “Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King spoke at Notre Dame,” she says. “He was invited by people in the community and they needed a venue. Father Hesburgh volunteered the Stepan Center. A few people on campus were wondering how to commemorate the event.

“We started to get some events together; some were focused on modern-day African-American culture, some on history. Once we started sharing this with people across the community, we heard from a lot of people who wanted to be a part of it,” Rucker says. “It will be a communitywide program showcasing Africa and the African diaspora. What I think is really cool about it is it started as a commemoration of the visit 50 years ago that started as a community invitation and is now a communitywide event.”

The series began on Wednesday, August 28, at the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture with an artist talk by Claudia Bernardi called “Walls of Hope: African American Elders Share Memories of Integration during the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s.” An internationally known artist, Bernardi discussed her most recent collaborative project undertaken with students from Mary Baldwin College, African-American elders from Staunton, W.V., and the School of Art in Perquin, El Salvador. Bernardi will also be working with Joe Segura on a collaborative project in the art studio.

Several other public events are planned throughout the fall semester, with more coming in the spring. In addition to Wednesday’s artist talk, an exhibition titled “The African Presence in Mexico” opened on August 22 in the Crossroads Gallery for Contemporary Art in the Center for Arts and Culture. Planned events include film screenings, gospel concerts, lectures and luncheons. A full calendar, updated daily, is online at

In September, the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center will host a gospel memorial concert at the Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 101 N. Adams St., South Bend, that will feature Dianne Robertson Braddock, the sister of Carole Robertson, one of the four schoolgirls killed in the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing the morning of September 15, 1963. Braddock will deliver a keynote address.

“In October, our big thing will be Taylor Branch, who spent years chronicling the life of Martin Luther King,” Rucker says. Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will speak at a community luncheon as well as participate in an informal conversation on journalism today before giving a lecture titled “Myth and Miracles from the King Years” on Tuesday, October 1.

The series is sponsored by several Notre Dame and community partners, including the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy; the Crossroads Gallery for Contemporary Art; the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center; the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre; the First Year of Studies; the Department of History; Multicultural Student Programs and Services; the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture; the Center for Civil and Human Rights; the Office of the Provost; the Segura Arts Studio; the Snite Museum of Art; and University Communications. Community co-sponsors include Bethel College, Indiana University Medical School, Indiana University South Bend, the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center, the Center for History, Saint Mary’s College, Providing Options, the South Bend Heritage Foundation and Visit South Bend Mishawaka.

For a full list of events and programming, visit

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